Our Parshat HaShevua, Balak is sponsored by Mutti and Michelle Frankel and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh in honor of the recent Chassuna of their son Tuvya to Chana (Lieberman) and the recent Birthday of their son Eliyahu. To the Frankel family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.
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One can’t discuss Parshat Balak without Bila’am and his donkey. Although our Parshat is named for Balak, the king of Moav, renowned also as a mighty warrior, Balak played largely a supporting role.
It sure seems that Bila’am’s actions toward his donkey while enroute to meet Balak, and the resultant historical she-donkey’s monologue and rebuke of him might have been the inspiration behind a famous long-running American comedy series. It was back in the days when American TV was still clean, slapstick and somewhat pure. You know the one:
Hello, I’m Mr. Ed!
A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
and nobody talks to a horse of course,
that is of course unless the horse is the famous Mr. Ed.
After the Jews had defeated the Amorite, Balak and Moabite people feared Am Yisrael. (Ramban, as related in commentary at the opening of the Parshat in the Artscroll Stone Chumash, page 857)
Our Pashat opens by recording:
“Balak, son of Zippor saw all that Yisrael did to the Amorite. Moav became every frightened of the people becuse it was numerous… Moav said to the elders of Midian: ‘Now the congregation will lick up our entire surroundings, as an ox licks up the greenery of the field.’ Balak… was king of Moav at that time.”
“He sent messengers to Bilaam son of Pethor…” (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 22, posukim 2-5 as rendered by the Artscroll Stone Chumash)
Our Parshat informs us that as Bila’am traveled on his donkey to meet Balak, three times a moloch (angel) blocked the donkey’s way, and three times Bila’am struck the donkey trying to force it to continue. After Bila’am’s third attack, the donkey miraculously spoke:
“Hashem opened the mouth of the she-donkey, and it said to Bila’am, ‘What have I done to you, that you hit me these three times.'” (Perek 22, posuk 26b as rendered in the Artscroll Stone Chumash)
Sefer Shem Mishmuel (translated to English by Rabbi Zvi Belovski), pages 347-351 comments citing Rashi who quotes Chazal:
It is noteworthy that the word usually employed by the Torah for “times” is pe’amim, but in this verse an unusual form, regalim, usually denoting “festivals” is used.
“These three times.” (Bamidbar Perek 22, posuk 28) — It was a hint that he wanted to uproot the Jewish nation, who celebrate three pilgrim festivals each year.
There are many lessons that we draw from this sudden chain of events; Bila’am’s arrogance, his bias against Am Yisrael which drove him, even when his donkey’s path was blocked, and his deliberate attempts to circumvent and override the Will of Hashem in attempting to curse Am Yisrael. In the incident with his donkey, Bila’am was unable to see or perceive the obstacle, the moloch, which stood in the way of the donkey’s path. There is a profound lesson here for us today as the media, intelligencia, academia and political elites attempt to subvert the masses, create biases among the various sectors of Am Yisrael and orchestrate actions by successive Israeli governments such as to jeopardize the nation’s security and sovereignty.
Shem Mishmuel adds this from Chazal (page 351):
Bila’am wished to curse Klal Yisrael and destroy their ability to observe the shalosh regalim [the three festivals], which so contradicted his very nature. Hashem subverted his evil designs, and he was forced to bless them time and again, strengthening their ability to observe the very mitzvah he hated most.
And just as Bila’am and his she-donkey might have inspired the TV creation of “Mr. Ed”, so too we can look at Bila’am’s hatching the plot of the Ba’al Peor and sense it’s possible parallels and analogy within contemporary perceptions, actions and rationale amongst the institutions, intelligencia and governance of Medinat Yisrael, as well as, yes — certain streams of liberalized “religious thought” and misguided political entities promoting national cultural “unity” by way of looking the other way regarding compromise of elementary, fundamental Halacha — Judaism 101, if you will.
We learn in our Parsha, that after all of Bila’am’s foibles with his donkey, and having utterly failed in his machinations to bring Hashem to curse B’nai Yisrael, Bila’am left Balak with a scheme to seduce Jewish men to avodah zora by way of immorality (co-habitation), thus evoking Hashem’s wrath. The resultant plague killed 24,000 Jewish men and was only ended by Pinchas’ zealous act in slaying Zimri and Kosbi in one stroke of his spear.
The Midrash Says (by Rabbi Moshe Weissman, Parsha Balak, pages 350-351) indicates that Bila’am’s Ba’al Peor scheme began by attracting eruv rav — the Mitzri “groupies” who accompanied the Jews out of Mitzrayim. But, then the attraction lured members of Shevet Shimon. The account states that Hashem revealed those who sinned by removing The Clouds of Glory from above the guilty ones.
The Midrash Says (page 351) describes how:
….It was for these people Pinchas later prayed and whose deaths he averted.
The members of the Tribe of Shimon were very distressed because many of their kinsmen had been sentenced to death. They came before their nassi, Zimri, and reproached him, “How can you keep silent in the face of so many deaths?”
Zimri reacted by brazenly challenging Moshe in public.
Zimri, the prince of Shavet Shimon and the most prominent individual to take part in this act of physical lust, displayed a distorted and false perception and rationale in bringing Kosbi into the Camp and co-habitating with her before The Assembly.
R’Rafael Katzenellenbogen is cited in Studies in the Weekly Parsha, by Yehuda Nachshoni referring to R’ Sonnenfeld who noted that Zimri’s distorted sense of “acting for the sake of Shemayim” evolved from;
“…a novel, misleading ideology, that evil must be tolerated by incorporating it into the Camp of Israel, to dissuade the lustful man from finding himself in the camp of idolaters.” (Studies in the Weekly Parsha, by Yehuda Nachshoni, Parsha Balak, page 1115.)
Zimri’s alleged “L’Shem Shemayim” model; bringing co-habitation with Moabite women into the camp of B’nai Yisrael lest men go looking for it outside, i.e., at the Midianite/Moabite Bazaar where the co-habitation was an enticement and seduction to the avodah zora Ba’al Pe’or, seemed a cover for his (Zimri’s) true motivations and intentions. Zimri’s “In your face, Moshe” demeanor appeared as motivated by lust for power, just as Korach’s true motivations were covered by rationale of accusation of nepotism against Moshe Rabbeinu and Aaron.
But perhaps we can’t entirely equate today’s attempts at incorporation of various alien practices into the camp of B’nai Yisrael with Zimri’s alleged “L’Shem Shemayim” model. R’ Katzenellenbogen’s understanding of Zimri’s actions of incorporating toleration of evil within the Camp of Israel, apparently for the sake of Shemayim, might have had some ostensibly outward well-meaning purpose of promoting a sense of unity among varying sectors of the Kehal.
Today’s either benign or activist attitudes of governmental and political leadership, as well as by the so-called intellectual elites, the progressives, academia, the media, etc. toward toleration as normal or new normal and attempted enforced incorporation of alien practices have no well-meaning purpose. Incorporating practices such as same-gender relationships, separation of religion and state, Shabbos desecration, civil marriage, proselytization of Jews away from Judaism, delegitimizing parts of our Divine Legacy — Eretz Yisrael and more into the camp of Am Yisrael appear as having but one purpose: dilution of all vestiges of Judaism and spirituality amongst Am Yisrael toward creation of an Israel, the state of all of its people rather than Hashem’s intent of Israel, a state of the Jews.
May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of three years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.